DIARY: Museum seeks to raise the roof

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LONDON's skyline could have a new addition by the turn of the century, a huge dome-like structure above the National Maritime Museum, following approval by Greenwich council of a pounds 9m plan. A partially glazed elliptical roof raised on four steel columns will cover a courtyard exhibiting royal barges, ships' engines and a paddle steamer. Students of architecture are expected to be delighted.

Although support for the Building Design Partnership's plans was not unanimous - local officials took some convincing that the roof will not ruin local views or the museum's Grade I-listed buildings - the Government is expected to approve the scheme, and the first phase of a pounds 57m redevelopment plan is likely to start by 1996.

'The museum wanted me to create a 'wow' factor and achieve a spectacular space with an outdoor feel,' says the architect, David Thompson, who traipsed around assorted Baroque churches for inspiration. With the roof expected to rival the Louvre's glass pyramid as a landmark, the maritime museum, which has been stung in recent years by Government cuts and the recession, will be hoping its new look encourages more visitors. Another attraction on the drawing board that would definitely get the turnstiles clicking: a half-scale replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind.

THE NEXT time you're drinking tea in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, watch out for the following cafe assistant who bamboozled a colleague the other day. Colleague: 'Pot of tea, please.' Assistant: 'Strong, medium or weak?' Opting for strong, the colleague watched the assistant place only one tea- bag in the pot. 'How many do you get if it's weak?' The assistant was happy to clear up the misunderstanding. Strong, apparently, signified Ceylon; medium was Earl Grey, and weak Darjeeling.

Test of truth

WHEN William Waldegrave suggested that ingenuousness and ministerial statements in the Commons did not necessarily go hand in hand, he had already entered into discussions with the Daily Telegraph, which wanted him to sponsor a science project. Indeed, he had already commended the winning entry in a competition for whizzkids. Immediately after his appearance before the select committee, however, he withdrew from the scheme, albeit with regret. The mystery can now be explained: the winner of the competition had devised a project called 'The Truth Test', and Mr Waldegrave therefore deemed it politic to gracefully withdraw.

A SIGN of the times at Bonhams yesterday when a black and white (at least it wasn't grey) publicity photograph of John Major - the catalogue rather breathlessly informs us that the subject signed the photograph in blue ink - failed to make its guide price of pounds 30- pounds 40. A clerk from a magistrates court agreed to take it off the auctioneer's hands for pounds 20.

Basil's brush

WHATEVER Basil Hume's qualifications as leader of England's Roman Catholics - the Irish author Joseph Dunn this week suggests that the Vatican originally preferred Derek Worlock, now Archbishop of Liverpool - knowledge of worldly ways is probably not one of them. According to Amplefordian folklore, the then abbot decided his party of students was in need of refreshment after a pilgrimage to Lourdes, the healing shrine.

Heading for the nearest town centre in search of a pub - one that sold lemonade and suchlike, of course - he hurried the boys into an establishment bearing the sign 'Maison publique'. The party created some interest, I gather, among the other clientele. Hume, his cassock flapping, had stumbled into a brothel.

A Day Like This

31 March 1918 Rene Gimpel, the French art dealer, writes in his diary: 'Jeannotte is an American impresario, a one-time singer. I made his acquaintance around 1908 or 1909 in Montreal. He told me he was related on his mother's side to the family of Oscar Wilde. Jeannotte was very young when he met the poet at the house of an English duchess. It was in summer at a castle, teatime in a large company. The duchess took from a vase a magnificent rose in perfect bloom. She inhaled its scent, had it passed round, and everybody went into raptures, for its scent matched its beauty. It came to Oscar Wilde; the sun was bursting in through the open window; the poet sniffed the flower ardently, but in a flash tore off the petals and threw them out of the window. A tremor of indignation rose against the sacrilege. Turning on the opposition, Oscar Wilde said to them: 'It would have been too sad to see such a rose wither.' Their feelings were soothed.'

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